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My experience emotionally healing from divorce


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I meant to hit publish on this piece a few weeks back to tie in with Valentine's Day, but life got very busy. It's taken me two and a half years to feel ready to talk about this topic, what's a few more weeks? I thought. I guess my purpose in writing this piece is a) to let other women who might be in the same situation know that there is absolutely light at the end of the tunnel. And b) It's important to emphasize there is no straight line, true formula, or silver-bullet remedy when it comes to healing from divorce. It's devastating. And messy. But if you're intentional about it, you will get through it. Below is my experience.

My #1 Tool in Healing from Divorce

I've had people tell me how gracefully I handled my years-long separation/divorce process, and how I seemed to begin thriving again after my divorce. I joke and say that I owe it all to my amazing therapist. For me, this was the most critical component of my healing — preserving my mental health, no matter the financial cost.

I started working with my therapist in May of 2021, months before my divorce, to discuss the difficulty I was having in trying to find a “new career path” after selling this website and becoming a mother. Divorce wasn't even on the horizon. And then (suddenly) when it was, I ramped up from once a month to talking with her at a minimum, every week. Some weeks (when I felt like I needed the support), I saw her twice. All told, I probably spent $6k that year on therapy. (I know that's a big number and I'm incredibly privileged that I was able to invest in and receive that support. Not everyone gets that lucky.)

But if you can engage with a therapist, it's critical during such a time of upheaval. Not only did my therapist give me an outlet (and keep me from unloading so much rage, sadness, and chaos on my loving friends and family), but we also were able to craft plans and systems together to help me in my healing. I don't know if I could have come up with a “game plan” for healing from divorce on my own. I was in straight survival mode and barely had the energy to care for my son and myself, let alone craft a self-care plan.

But plan we did, and below is what we came up with.

Lauren's Plan for Healing from Divorce

Practice “boring self-care” every single day

This included cutting out alcohol and focusing on drinking enough water, getting in some form of movement every day, (even if it was just a ten-minute walk around the block), taking in 15 minutes of sunshine, and journaling my feelings daily.

I didn't have to do each of these tasks, but I did have to engage with at least one of these “mood shifters” every single day. And I practiced this for a full year until my divorce was final in August 2022. Back then they were lifelines, but now they're just good practices for my mental health or when I'm trying to get out of a rut.

Get comfortable asking for help and support

Nothing feels more isolating than going through a divorce (except for maybe new motherhood, but at least then you have your partner.) It's important during a divorce to lean on your extended network, whether it is your family or close friends. You can have a therapist, yes, but it's important to remind yourself that you aren't alone in this life — even sans husband/wife/partner.

I was challenged by my therapist to leave the house once each day (to not wallow), which was especially critical on days I did not have parenting time with my son. And to better pass the time when my son was with his Dad (which was downright excruciating at first, to be honest), I had to actively plan outings.

I said yes to every invitation, I proactively planned dinners. But I had to get out of my pre-divorce comfort zone and initiate. In the earliest days after the divorce (when I was still in the marital residence), I got a membership at the L.A. Fitness around the corner and often just cried in the shower or sauna there so as not to do it at home. But at least I left the house, is my point.

Healing from divorce: make a bucket list

While you're in the process of a divorce, your life is on hold. You're not in the chapter you were in, and you can't quite start your new life either. For me, being in limbo was one of the hardest aspects of that time. Nothing was permanent. Everything was in flux. I couldn't plan or dream or really imagine a future in my head at all.

To try and combat how hard this felt, I made a “bucket list” of everything I wanted to do after my divorce. My items included taking a big trip (Egypt) and getting my first tattoo (check) among others.

It gave me things to feel excited about and look forward to once the process was over. Bonus points for items you likely never would have gotten around to during your marriage or while being partnered with your former spouse.

Focus on the kids

Divorcing when you have children (particularly small children) is, obviously, more difficult than divorcing when you don't have kids. It will never be a clean break from your spouse; they are always going to be in your life.

But the silver lining is that their well-being gives you something to focus on when life is in a spiral. On days when I didn't know how to feel or what was coming, I focused on doing my best for him: getting him to school, making sure he had everything he needed, making sure he was loved. Cooking hot dinners for him when the last thing I wanted to do was lift a pan to the stove. It was hard to do some days, but I was grateful for the mental break of thinking of something other than my grief.

During my parenting time, I was with my own Mom and Dad quite a bit. They helped share in his care, but my Mom also did the heavy lifting of planning kid-friendly activities for all of us during that year. I never asked her for this, but somehow she just knew it was what I needed and something she could help with. Thanks to her, my son had adventures that year, instead of just sitting at home watching too much TV, but I had to let her “in” for her to do this.

You should let people in to support you and your children during this time, too. It may feel like pity and hard to take at first, but caring for you is also a way people show love.

Explore New and Old Interests

In your new divorcee reality, most people will now begin co-parenting and have more time to themselves. My therapist encouraged me to invest back in myself during my solo time, rather than spend time being sad I wasn't with my son. This often looked like running kid-free errands, catching up on sleep, and exploring new interests (They don't call them “divorce hobbies” for nothing!)

The thing most people don't realize is that after divorce you do become a new person. You will never be who you were before. So it's important to explore your new/former interests and give yourself space to explore outside-the-box ideas about ways you might find joy.

For me, I took up barre classes again. Something I'd loved pre-marriage but had gotten out of, and this checked two boxes of exercise and getting me out of the house and socializing with a close girlfriend who also took at the same studio. I also began taking small weekend trips in my kid-free time to get out of the city and explore new places. Even though I knew I was a different person, I found that in pursuing my interests, I also found my way back to myself. Often in those moments, I felt like the woman I was before I even met my ex-husband. Each week was a discovery; there you are, I'd say.

Invest in making yourself look and feel good

I know this is a personal finance website and a lot of you come here looking for money tips and advice (of which I have plenty) but there are just some times when you have to say, “f*ck being responsible, I'm getting my nails done.” And trust me, I get that money is never tighter than during a divorce.

But when I was already feeling so low, having a fresh haircut or manicure helped me feel better. It gave me comfort to know that I looked presentable on the outside, even as I was crumbling on the inside.

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is last on my list because to me this was the biggest thing I held onto during my divorce. If you're a motivated, ambitious perfectionist, self-compassion doesn't always come easy. But when you are walking through grief, self-compassion is critical. I know many of us don't think about divorce as being a “grief” event like death, but there is an immense amount of grief. Buckets of it.

The thing about grief is that it manifests itself in all the ways: mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was so incredibly tired for weeks when we first separated. And rather than beat myself up about my capacity, or how tired I was, or how I couldn't keep up at work, I went easy on myself. I gave myself grace and I drank water and I slept and then I tried again the next day.

And the next day, and the next day, and so on.

Now that I've been out of the fog of my divorce for about eighteen months now, life has gotten hard in other ways, and I've found that self-compassion is hard to come by again. As I sit here writing this post, it's a good reminder that I am worthy of self-compassion whether I am going through a traumatic event or not.

The TL:DR

Because I co-parent, I have to toe the line between oversharing and being potentially disrespectful to my child's father. Hopefully, I struck the right balance in sharing my own experiences and not trying to tear anyone down or place blame.

Rebuilding your life after such a significant event is challenging, but what I want to impress upon people who may be contemplating divorce (or wondering how they'd ever get through it) is that your future is brighter outside of an unhappy marriage than in one. I do believe that. It just takes a lot of time and patience for the pieces to land, for emotions to settle, and for the future reality to present itself. But you will get there, even though it won't happen overnight.

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